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United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Hon. Mary Jane McCallum: Honourable senators, my question is for the Government Representative in the Senate, Senator Gold. It is with regard to Bill C-15 and the comments Minister Bennett made during her April 20 appearance before the House of Commons Indigenous and Northern Affairs Committee.

When asked about the concept of free, prior and informed consent, Minister Bennett said, “There’s nothing about free, prior and informed consent in the legislation itself.” She also said that as free, prior and informed consent is explained in the declaration, it is not necessary to explain it again in the bill.

Senator Gold, I myself, as well as many First Nations grassroots people and leadership, found these comments concerning. Essentially, community members believe these remarks indicate that the articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, or UNDRIP, will have no legal standing, as UNDRIP is simply an annex to Bill C-15 and only the numbered sections of the bill have the force of law. It follows that the articles of UNDRIP, then, would not have the force of law.

This reality seems to support Minister Bennett’s view that since free, prior and informed consent is not in the numbered section of the bill, there should be no fear it could amount to a veto.

Can you please confirm whether or not the articles of UNDRIP will have legal standing, as they are only found in the annex?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for the question, senator. I think the most appropriate answer I could give is to encourage all interested senators to participate in the pre-study that this chamber has authorized our committee to take. There will be opportunities to question both ministers, witnesses and experts on this subject. There will be a far more appropriate and fulsome answer given through the Senate process.

Senator McCallum: Senator Gold, I asked Minister Lametti’s office for the gender-based analysis on Bill C-15. We were told that it was confidential, so my office couldn’t get it. However, when we had the parliamentary briefing last week and I brought that up, the people answering our questions said that they would be sending it to us. Would it be possible for you to ensure that my office gets a copy of the GBA? Thank you.

Senator Gold: Thank you, senator. I wasn’t aware of such undertakings. I will certainly make inquiries and use my best efforts to see that it happens.

Senator McCallum: Thank you.

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